Saturday, December 27, 2014

Wollner / Sichart: 40mm Bleisoldaten

I hope everyone has emjoyed the holiday season, now winding down towards New Years Day.  For myself, it was great to see the family together again.  I also received something ordered from Berliner Zinnfiguren.  Two sets of 40mm figures: some antique Ramm flat castings (started painting these, more about which in a subsequent post) and the set of (pre-painted !) Wollner Austrian artillery shown here.  It's obvious to anyone following this blog that it's all about painting them myself, but I did think this was a charming set in the old semi-round toy soldier style.

The figures are nominally 40mm but very much on the smallish side of that rather elastic scale.

I also painted the last of the Sichart (except for the bandsmen) Austrian infantry.  I turned back the clock on these to ca. 1860 by cutting off the buttons, converting the tunic to the old double-breasted style and painted on the cross-belts.  Here's an example of one of the figures contrasted with the 1890's style which the figures were intended to be.

The flag is just okay, the raised detail of the Imperial eagle on the casting would have been more worthy of Josef Wagner composing a march "Under the Double Tarantula" as the resemblance to an eagle is approximate at best. I would probably have been better off just filing it off and painting from scratch but it's at least serviceable.

At any rate, this is all I have so any reinforcements will have to be via the mold-making process and I did save one casting for this purpose.  No rush about it though, the figures on parade with their slung rifles are a bit lacking in martial vigor so I think I can do better by the Austrian infantry from some other source.  Nice to have these as a fall-back though.

Next up, Spenkuchs.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Old Heinrichsen French - 28mm Flats

The Risorgimento or Italian wars of 1848-1866 have been of interest to me for several years now, since first reading about these battles of which I had previously known nothing virtually nothing.  I've been looking for flats depicting this era off and on and the pickings seem to be slim when it comes to figures currently in production. However, the antique flats do appear on eBay and the Berliner Zinnfiguren Flea Market from time to time.

That's how I acquired this old set of French infantry.  Actually it took about 3 purchases of smaller groups to scrape together a minimal battalion of 21 foot plus a mounted commander.  As you can see in the first photo, the factory paint has seen better days. As indeed you'd expect given that the figures were probably produced when battles like Solferino were current news.

First of all they are small:

Nor have even the Germans been entirely consistent in scale over the years.  From left to right, old Heinrichsen 28mm & 30mm, Keiler, Rieche Brothers.


How do they look when stripped and repainted ?  Not too bad, I think.  Somewhat crude compared to the newer flats but they do appeal.  As you can see, the pose is the same but the men in overcoats are executed in a different style from the guys in tunics.  Judging by the shakos, they predate the Franco-Prussian wars. 2nd Empire experts can help me out here, but I'm guessing ca. 1855-1860 is about right. 

And on the plus side, their simplicity and diminutive size makes them the fairly easy to paint.  I'm painting them five at a time in assembly line fashion and should finish the battalion within three weeks.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Checking In


After an exceptionally long hiatus, I'm pleased to report that I'm painting again.  If there are actually any followers left, I salute your patience. 

A few examples to start out.  First, the other side of the 30 Years War reiter.  This is actually the companion figure to the other of Gustavus Adolphus getting shot out of the saddle at the Battle of Lutzen.  He is part of the Heinricshen set Der 30-j√§hrige Kriegproduced in 1883.  These are nominally 40mm, but more precisely they are 35mm.

And a few of the Heinrichsn 45mm Ottoman infantry of 1877.  The originals were issued at about this time. 

And now just a couple years short of retirement, I've had to put some thought into what I collect and what must be trimmed.  As my wife and I will most likely be downsizing our living accomodations considerably, I think it's practical to assume that just about everything will have to go except for the flats.  So I'm painting those for now, the figures shown here with no particular project in mind but just to get the juices flowing again.  And I promise not to wait 6 months for the next post.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

In a Slump

Blog followers, you may have been wondering what’s going on with the lack of activity at Castles of Tin.  Indeed the blogosphere is studded with blogs started fired with enthusiasm only to halt with some random post, leaving you wondering why the blogger just walked away from it. 

The truth is, I’ve hit the wall.  I’ve painted hardly anything for weeks, finished some of the Deetail knights but couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to photograph them. I haven’t looked at my blog nor anyone else's. In hindsight, it wasn't a good sign when after designing and casting a nice 40mm French infantry figure, I couldn’t summon the motivation to finish even a battalion of them.

I look at the accumulated clutter of half-baked projects in my hobby room, try not to look at unpainted piles of lead and plastic, games & rulebooks stashed here and there in the closet or the garage, thinking of the money I’ve wasted over the years.  I won’t say wasted the time because I enjoyed nearly all the painting.  Hence there is a legacy of a sorts, although an unfocused one.   

The thought of trying to recoup years of hobby indulgence in small transactions on eBay is nearly grounds for despair.  One step at a time I know, but I just don't feel like dealing with it at the moment.  Although I know that sooner or later I must.  I'm resisting a nihilistic urge to hurl everything into the trash: simple and cathartic, but too wasteful and ultimately selfish to send things that others might enjoy to be bulldozed into landfill.  

Where to from here ?  I don’t know.  I’m hoping the recapture the muse sooner or later. For the time being, I’ve fallen back on building some 1/32 race car models, still something to do with the hands and relax the mind. Castles of Tin will resume at some point, although I can’t really say when.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Strategy & Tactics Magazine # 287


No doubt most of us started off playing board games. I was no exception.  My dad was bitten hard by the Avalon Hill wargaming bug in the late '50's.  Many is the time I was drafted for duty as cannon fodder in Tactics II when I would have rather been outdoors playing baseball.  But some of Dad's enthusiams eventually rubbed off on me. 

Up until the last few years, I continued the occasional board game purchase when I really have no opponents or can't muster the enthusiasm to actually set things up and have a go at playing a two-player game in ad hoc solitaire fashion.  For instance, I have a beautiful game Age of Conan with all the pieces still in plastic bags.  That was about the last as I wised up and stopped buying games that I have little probability of actually playing. But, this upcoming issue of S&T has really piqued my interest. 

Why ? Solitiare !  This will be S&T's second version some may recall the old Flight of the Goeben in S&T #21. It was subsequently released as an SPI board game in 1970.  This new game looks quite enticing:

The thought of being able to have another go at the enthralling story of the Goeben in solitaire mode makes it look as if I'll have to break my self-imposed ban on buying more board games. Also there could be some WW1 Mediterranean campaign potential in this map, as well as the possibility of playing out the battles with ship models.

Still plugging away at the Deetail knights. I took a short vacation this earlier this week so painting time has been a bit limited.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Tradition Knights - 54mm

It's past time to put something new up here. I finished the paper model T-72 but haven't gotten around to  photographing it yet. I wanted to make a few outdoor shots but it's been pretty soggy out there for the last week or so.  Anyway, as no doubt blog followers here are probably used to the abrupt changes in subject matter, on to something completely different.

I enjoy painting 54mm knights.  Over the years, I've collected them off and on and probably have enough to start thinking about some 54mm skirmish gaming with them. Rules recommendations, anyone ?  They are mostly plastic but also some metal figures are in the mix.  These Tradition kits are nice and less expensive than most. The foot knights are rather static, hence not so good for gaming purposes, but I do like this one.  I've been experimenting with polishing the metal with steel wool and leaving it unpainted.

The mounted figures look to me to be more appealing on account of their more animated poses.  Here's Thomas de Beauchamp, the Earl of Warwick. The Atelier Interactive acrylic paints work nicely on these, the color is definitely more vibrant than the wargames paints. The Tradition figures make for an easy paint job on account of the raised heraldry. 

Tradition's painting guide

I'm working on repainting some Britains Deetail knights at the moment and should have pictures before long, as well as of the T-72.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

BMP-1: Card Model

Here's a card model I built recently, Paper Forge's BMP-1.  The default scale is 1/48, a bit small relative to my troops which are more 40mm (give or take a few millimeters).  However, 1/48 and 1/43 armor & vehicles fit the size of the soldiers well enough for my purposes.

This and other models such as the T-72, Abrams tanks and the Humvee can be found at Wargamer Vault, PDF file downloads for the princely sum of $1.99.  Not bad at all considering that once you have the files, unlimited vehicles can then be fabricated at no additional cost.  The parts sheets have a helpful conversion table giving the % of print scale to make the models as anything from 1/35 to 1/144. 

For the Russian vehicles, the files come with two different versions, green and tan. The US comes in woodlands camo and tan. The Russian green is nice, with the appearance of mud on the tracks and hull. But the details on the tan version look a little crisper to me.  In the case of the BMP, everything fits on one parts sheet.

This is a very well designed kit. Very simple to build, yet sturdy. The braces keep the hull true so that the tracks sit flush once you've completed the build.

And the end result.  Yes, it's simplified in that there are no headlights, the tracks aren't flared out away from the hull and so on.   But I think it captures nicely the look of the cramped sardine can for infantry that is the Boyevaya Mashina Pekhoty.  In any case, detailed or not it works just fine in my simple imagi-nations context.

I did some things to it, substituted a styrene cannon barrel (although you could just as easily go with the rolled paper), styrene driver's/TC's optics, used an extra parts sheet with cereal box cardboard-backed hatches and fenders to make the details pop a little more.  And I painted the green camo pattern.  Water is death to paper models, but you can get away with using water-based paint on them providing you dry the brush thoroughly after rinsing. The 40mm HLBS crew figure shows the vehicle is a bit undersized, but not outlandlishly so.

I'm now nearly finished with the T-72 and will post about it soon.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

PA Cavalry Conversion 2: 40mm Home Casting

Finally got around to painting the first casting from the modification of the Prince August cavalry figure.  Conversion on the left, original on the right:

The verdict ?  I have mixed feelings about this. The horse and the rider's coat show minor improvements.  But to my eyes, it looks like bulking up the hat was a mistake.  In the abstract, it wasn't a bad idea to fix the rider's flattish tricorne.  However I missed something when enumerating the figure's flaws:  not only the horse's head is too big, so is the rider's. What I did here only accentuated it.

Still an okay figure but I'm not excited about it.  May hold off for a bit to see what Prince August unveils in the new range of 7YW molds, hopefully some nice cavalry is in the offing.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Airfix Modern British Infantry: 1/48 Plastic

I recently purchased a box of Airfix modern infantry with the idea of using them with my Green forces.  On paper, this seemed like a good idea as my few 1/48 HLBS modern infantry figures (a range now sadly defunct) match pretty well with the other figures I have.  The back of the box image sold me on the purchase. The poses are fairly static in patrolling mode but there looked to be some useful guys in the box.

The raw materials.  The figures aren't multi-part in the sense of having a lot of options right out of the box, although not doubt some customization can be done.  Things fit well enough together (except for the scrawny necks), although the arms aren't clearly defined as to what angle they need to be mounted in order to grasp the spindly assault rifles. Using plastic model glue there's time to make adjustments before it sets, super glue is a lot more problematic in that respect.

As soon as I saw the size of the parts, I knew I had a problem.  From left to right, Airfix, HLBS, plastic army guy:

The Airfix soldier measures 33mm from the boots to the eyes, HLBS is 38mm.  Seems hard to believe a major model company could muff the scale, so we can say then that the HLBS were "heroic" 1/48, a virtual 40mm. Still, I'm curious how the Airfix might scale up against the Tamiya 1/48 WW2 figures, although I'm not about to purchase a box purely in the interest of research. 

Despite his deformity, Private Pencil Neck somehow passed the army's physical exam.
No, they just won't do.    

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Cloning a Clone: Plastic Army Guys

Everyone has seen them, those ubiquitous bags of cheap plastic made-in-China clone soldiers hanging on the rack in seemingly every supermarket and drug store in the US.  Do kids even play with these anymore ?  Maybe just big kids like us.  As often as not, they're 35-45mm knockoffs of their 54mm plastic army men brethren, the Airfix or Timmee roots clear to see. I've posted about them before.

Inspired by the engrossing series Jono's World at the Archduke Piccolo blog, I decided to to take another crack at these.  In this case, I modied one of the figures for the evil Tan forces. The raw materials in this bag are two main types of soldiers.  The Vietnam era guys seem to be copies in the Timmee style. But others look like British WW2 infantry from the neck down, capped off with US M1 style steel pots.  This helmet had a good long run from WW2 until the Fritz in the mid-80's, wore one myself (now over 40 years ago, wow !).

Here is the candidate figure, selected for his appealing and useful assaulting pose.  The main change was was substituting an AK for his WW2 rifle (Enfield ?), brass wire for the barrel and green stuff magazine and front sight.  That and giving him boots for a more Russian sort of look, plus a rucksack to cover the old-fashioned web gear.

And for added strength and repeatability, made a mold to cast the figure in metal.

The result ?  Not too bad and he certainly meets my needs.

The BMP in the background is a cheap and simple paper model. More about this in a subsequent post. For now, I'm belatedly painting the first example of the modified cavalryman.

Friday, February 21, 2014

PA Cavalry Conversion: 40mm Semi-Rounds

I had hoped to show more painted results of the latest figure conversion but had a setback in the mold making stage of the process, more about which later.  For now, the story begins with Prince August cavalry.  While we're relatively spoiled for choice with the infantry, there are four main cavalry trooper figures which can be cast.  First we have good old PA11 and the identical pose in its newer, more fully rounded version:

This seems to be the hands down favorite, and we also see a very similar figure as the mainstay of everyone's Spencer Smith cavalry arm.  I like this one but he looks very Swedish to me in style and the hell-for-leather charge was probably not the norm for most armies' cavalry doctrine of the era. And of course we have the pistol wielding PA48 and the nice, but rather static dragoon PA41. 

Both these latter figures certainly have their uses, but sticking to sword-armed cavalry it comes down to Molds # 11 or Mold # 935 painted in his "Wild Geese" livery in the top photo. # 935 seems to be not nearly as popular, perhaps in part due to difficulty in casting the sword fully.  Further, there are things about the figure which are not quite right. The horse's head looks oversized, the hind quarters a bit skimpy and angular, the pistols oddly mounted forward and too low on the body instead of up near the saddle.  But I do very much like the pose, so let's see what can be done here:

As can be seen in the comparison shot, what I have done to the rider is bulk up the flattish tricorne, also give him a fuller coat and cuffs.  I beefed up the sword a bit to get a stronger cast, with the intention of filing it after casting.  The horse and tack get some attention as well: among other things, filed down the head a little, added more definition to the hind quarters, amputed the pistol holsters and replaced with green ones.

So far so good, I think.  Last weekend I made a new mold with eager anticipation of casting and painting this new figure.  The first half came out fine. Unfortunately, had a bit of a disaster where a small portion of the second mold have stuck to the first despite the use of mold separation cream. Evidently I missed a spot. And this damage fell right across part of the horse, ruining the castings.  Why not just re-do the second half, you ask ?  Good question !  And I would have done so but for the lack of sufficient RTV compound. Rather than taking the sensible course of ordering more and waiting, I tried patching the 2nd half, would up cutting extra channels in the original half as a work-around and to sum up, botched the whole thing.  So we're a week or two away from seeing this figure actually painted.

In the meantime, I've also started on the infantry command figures. The standard bearer is finished, the drummer just under way. I'll soon show these in subsequent postings.